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16/04/2011 / Test All Things

A Letter To William Brown – October 3rd, 1859

My dear friend, William Brown.

I desire sincerely to sympathize with you under your present heavy trial, especially as I have had myself some experience, both of bodily affliction, and also of being laid aside from the ministry. At the same time I cannot but concur in the prudence, and I might add, in the necessity, of the step which you have taken. Both you and Mrs. Brown have long suffered from the malaria of Godmanchester, and have clearly proved its injurious effects, by being so much better in health when removed from its noxious influence. It is not then a sudden whim or fancy, but unhappily a sad fact, against which you have struggled again and again with the same result.

Illness and weakness of body, we well know, are in themselves heavy afflictions, and when to them is added trials of mind, it is laying on a load at the very time when we are least able to bear it. At the same time, the very feeling of the people at Godmanchester shows a most sincere attachment to you. They could not bear to lose you, and were therefore angry, both with you and the assigned cause for your departure. The air which they had breathed from infancy might be health to them, but death to you. The very atmosphere (Southport, Lancashire) which you are now inhaling with pleasure, and I hope with advantage to recruit your health, would not at all suit me, as I found three years ago the northern air was too chilling for my chest. But I well know how apt we are to make our own feelings a standard for others.

But enough of this. I do most sincerely hope that you may soon be restored to your beloved work, for I am sure that you will feel being laid aside to be a heavier trial in reality than it appears in prospect. You will see the importance and the blessedness of the work, as you scarcely ever saw it before; the weight of the ministry will rest with heavier pressure upon your mind, and like Jeremiah, you will feel a fire shut up in your bones, which would gladly find vent. You must not expect to be favoured with many such Lord’s days as the first that you spent at Southport. Murmurings and fretfulness may arise in your mind at being laid aside, and when you look round and see the ministers of Satan full of health and strength, and you who would gladly speak in the name of the Lord laid aside, it may stir up many hard thoughts and unbelieving reasonings why it should be so. I do hope that the Lord may enable you to open your mouth, if not so fully or so widely as you could wish, yet with a sufficient testimony that He is with you in the work. There are, I believe, many little ’causes’ in Lancashire where, when your health is recruited, you may speak. But the Lord knows best what to do with us.

The lines which you quote from Milton’s sonnet, I have often thought of, for they are most expressive of the posture of a Christian. I have thought sometimes that ministers of Christ are too much engaged in spending without getting—and I am well convinced that so much preaching is not good for the soul, unless the Lord be in a very special manner with the preacher. We have to receive before we can give; and if there be no reading, meditation, prayer, waiting upon the Lord, and passing through trial, exercise, and temptation, and being supported and blessed in and under them, there will be nothing, as it were, laid up in the heart to come out of the mouth. It is this lack of reading, meditation, and spiritual exercises which makes the ministry of the day so lean, and to wear out so soon, and become a mere irksome series of unprofitable repetition. I do hope that the blessed Lord will in this affliction be pouring into your soul the riches of His grace, that you may see more and more of the beauty and blessedness of the Lord Jesus Christ, be led more and more into the fullness and depth of God’s truth, so that when you come out of this furnace, it may be like gold purified in the fire. The friends both here and at Leicester testify to the sweetness and savour which attended your testimony in your last visit at both places. Oh, it is by these things that men live, and in all these things is the life of our spirit! Our coward flesh shrinks from afflictions, but they are our best friends, and we learn nothing truly profitable but in and through them.

Yours affectionately,
J. C. P.

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